/ Technology

Action needs to heat up on cold calls

Nuisance caller

Today we’re urging Government, regulators and businesses to renew their efforts to call time on nuisance calls and texts as complaints about this everyday menace continue to rack up in the tens of thousands.

Last year I was asked by the Government to chair a taskforce that would find ways to help tackle the problem of nuisance calls. In December we outlined 15 recommendations to introduce tougher rules and more action from businesses, the regulators and the Government. But six months on, much more needs to be done.

Since the taskforce reported, there have been around 61,500 official complaints about nuisance calls and texts, according to figures from the regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office. But just 2% of people who’ve had these calls report them to the regulator, meaning there are millions more.

The taskforce set out a clear action plan, so it’s disappointing that so many unwanted calls and texts are still being received. People are sick of being bombarded with calls that invade their privacy and waste their time.

Complaints about nuisance calls

We’ve heard stories like Peter’s:

‘My 13 -year-old son got one. When he said he was only 13 they replied “has your dad or mum had an accident?”‘

And Alison’s:

‘When my mother was dying slowly in a care home 40 miles away and I was home caring for my sick husband, I sometimes had a dozen calls a day, any of which might have been the final summons I was dreading.

‘I bought a machine that let me block certain numbers – but these clever crooks changed their numbers with each call.’

The action we want taken to crack down on nuisance calls

We’re calling on the new Government to make senior executives accountable by law for their company’s nuisance calls.

Our new research found that eight in 10 people support greater accountability over nuisance calls, including directors being personally fined if their company continues breaks the rules.

That’s why we want businesses to take action now and support our campaign by making a public commitment to tackle nuisance calls. Already major companies including BT and SSE have publicly pledged their support.

We also want businesses to be required to show their number when they call you.

And we want regulators to give people more power by putting them in control of how their personal data is used. This means making it easier for you to unsubscribe from lists when you’ve accidentally found that you’ve opted in to be contacted. They must also provide some standardised wording for those opt in questions to make it easier for you to understand what it is you’re agreeing to.

We’re making it easier for you to complain about nuisance calls

There are things we can do to make it easier for you, too. We’ve found that a quarter of people don’t know where to complain when they receive an unwanted call, so we’re launching a new online complaints tool.

You can now send your complaint directly to the correct regulator in one simple process.

Nearly 200,000 of you have backed our Calling Time campaign, but now we’re urging you to make sure you report all nuisance calls and texts. This gives regulators the vital evidence they need to take action against companies breaking the rules.

Everyone has a part to play in ensuring that all of us are no longer bombarded on a daily basis with unwanted calls. The Government knows what’s required to tackle nuisance calls, so we need to see more sustained action, with senior executives held to account, to help put an end to this everyday menace.


I find the most effective way to stop cold calls is to swear as rudely as possible at the cold callers. Start off speaking politely and find out who they are. Once they have identified themselves and you’re sure they’re a cold caller, start swearing extremely rudely and tell them never to phone you again. This course of action has three advantages:

1. It encourages them to find another way to earn a living, particularly if everyone swears at them.
2. Cold callers won’t phone you again. My own experience suggests that they might even put you on a “do not call” blacklist used by other cold callers, as it is very effective.
3. It allows you to vent your anger at this distressing practice; it is very satisfying.

Please don’t take pity on cold callers that they’re only doing their job; such an argument doesn’t apply to criminal activity. I’m usually a very polite person and not the type of person who swears at people, but cold callers really deserve this.

I no longer have a landline, and I find that this is the most effective way to stop cold calls, although this isn’t an option for everyone.


“People are sick of being bombarded with calls that invade their privacy and waste their time”. True, but there is also ample evidence from the annals of Which Conversation? that cold calling is causing serious anxiety and distress to many people. Alison’s example quoted in the Intro is typical, and others who are vulnerable, or are caring for vulnerable people, have been driven crazy or have submitted to scams as a result of cold calls.

I applaud all the measures being taken by Which? but a common complaint is that these calls are not coming from honest and responsible companies who will abide by a code of practice; they’re coming from [or on behalf of] sham firms and unscrupulous outfits that have not a shred of moral decency and whose sole purpose is to lie, trick, con and extort so they cynically target those most likely to succumb. This is one of the most shameful and despicable types of anti-social behaviour in this country and there appears to be no effective answer to it. We have to try a wide range of approaches and identifying the perpetrators is the prime task but is exceedingly difficult.

Although it is widely believed that many cold calls have Asian origins, I think we have to face the fact that many calls are in fact made from a UK landline. There are so many desperate people who are tempted by apparently easy money to serve the purposes of the master scammers that they will engage in this activity. I have no sympathy for them but perhaps they do not understand the gravity and offensiveness of what they are doing. A publicity campaign aimed at educating the public at large of the impact of cold calling and, hopefully, stirring the conscience of some of those involved might be a useful approach. This is more than a nuisance, it is a heinous offence and deserves to be addressed with as much vigour as other breaches of the law.


Quote from the 15 recommendations by Which? :
” Our recommendations are designed to help reduce the incidence of unwanted calls and texts received by consumers…”

Sorry Which?, that is just not good enough.

There will be no satisfactory solution until ALL cold calling is made illegal. Reduction is not enough, they need to STOP.

I only get 1 or 2 nuisance calls a week from a human being these days, it used to be several a day. I now get a lot more recorded message nuisance calls mostly from a withheld number that I cannot report. They often say they are calling on behalf of the government or “it is a legal requirement that we inform you…” or “we have been trying to contact you about your claim…”.

I have never had a cold call that I was remotely interested in so why do I only need a reduction in them? Who are the ethical cold callers Which? seems to want to protect?

The other day. I missed a call on my mobile phone that I didn’t recognise. I goggled it and found it with a name and location I didn’t recognise on a website uk-community dot com.

I goggled our mobile phone numbers that are registered with TPS and one is also on this website and the other on another website ukphonebook dot mobi. Our names and locations were wrong on both websites.

Why are websites allowed to list phone numbers? There are other websites that list every conceivable landline number, many that will be registered with TPS. UK phone numbers are also listed on foreign websites. Isn’t there a privacy or data protection law that bans our personal data being broadcast in this way?

Recently, an elderly lady committed suicide because she was being hounded by charities and couldn’t take any more. Anybody seems to be able to call themselves a charity these days and there was a time when I thought my donations would go to a good cause. I now know otherwise and am much more selective to where I donate. But that poor lady is another very good reason why ALL cold calling should be banned.

Yesterday, a very nicely dressed, well spoken lady knocked on the door to ask if I would take part in a survey. I politely said no thank you and do you realise you are in a “no cold calling area”. She said she didn’t know what to do as she was supposed to be exempt but everyone was telling her the same thing. She was probably legit, but looks can be deceiving.

As long as the law permits cold calling on any level, there will always be scammers and hounders preying on the vulnerable.


Hi Alfa

We don’t think outright ban is the right solution to the problem of nuisance calls and texts because some people find telemarketing useful, and not all telemarketing calls are a nuisance or unwanted. A ban would adversely affect those companies that act legally and responsibly when they contact consumers.

But we do want to see companies following the rules on how they use your personal data to contact you. That’s why we’ve made this new tool that now sends complaints direct to the correct regulator. The more evidence they have the more they can take action against those who break the law.

We also think that all marketing calls should have to show a valid number when they contact you so that you can easily report them.

L A Harth says:
16 September 2015

I absolutely disagree!! No one finds telemarketing useful. It is far too dangerous, unpredictable etc etc.

‘Which’ is supposed to be ‘pro consumer’,


Hi Vanessa. I accept that some people want telemarketing calls, but they should have the opportunity to opt-in to receive them. If you ask Which? members or the general public it will be very obvious that most people don’t want them. There is one Conversation where 100% of respondents were opposed to nuisance calls.

I did not appreciate the extent of the problem until I retired and was at home most of the time.


Vanessa, would you give some examples of unsolicited telemarketing calls that you think people would find useful? am not normally against total bans – sometimes a blunt instrument is too crude. But I would like to hear the argument for them.

The “withheld” phone number seems to indicate a company that does not want to be identified and reported. I’m not sure why anyone would legitimately want a number withheld. However this would no doubt affect wothholding numbers on personal calls as well as business calls. Should any numbers be withheld, and why? I’m sure there are good reasons, though I’ve never withheld mine and have not suffered any problems – certainly not of any magnitude.

The problem then is cold calls from overseas – no doubt the offenders would simply route their calls that way. So the problem would persist.


I am intrigued as to who finds telemarketing “useful”. Such people would surely therefore have no objection to having to opt-in to receiving such calls. They would then not be cold calls but warm ones. The point is, and there is more evidence in support of this than for Which?’s contention, we don’t want any calls that are not of our choosing and we don’t want to have to pay for (unreliable) technology to enjoy privacy in our own homes. It’s as simple as that and I am disappointed that Which? is trying to compromise the issue.


I cannot think of a single occasion out of the hundreds of nuisance calls I have received when I found a telemarketing call useful.

If all cold calling was made illegal, UK companies should also be unable to take advantage of data obtained from foreign call centres so the problem should go away on its own.

In any case, it seems foreign call centres are being replaced by recorded messages from withheld numbers as scammers find a new way to flout the rules.


I sometimes get nuisance calls from companies that I have used in the past, for example insurance companies that have significantly raised my premium. I tell them that I will never use them again if I get another call. I tell them to remove my number because I’m no longer a customer. It works.

With companies that I currently use, they get two warnings that I will not accept marketing calls. That works too.

I have never bought any product or service as a result of an unsolicited phone call and anyone who pesters me can be sure that they will not get my business.


Insurance companies are nuisance callers in my book. I don’t get many of these calls but they are told “Please put it in the post, Bye” and I don’t give them my address. If I wanted to speak to one of these companies I would call them, I don’t want them calling me.

Too many people believing their callers are genuine, are being conned to part with their money by the unscrupulous. There is no way of knowing who is genuine and who is not.

Being called on behalf of my mobile phone company is a good example of unscrupulous behaviour as they seem to know my personal details and keep trying to get me to sign up to a shiny new bottom of the range phone with a new contract that is not with my current provider. But they make it sound like they really are my current provider and it was only by questioning them that I discovered the truth. They have been pestering me for a couple of years now, and I keep telling them I don’t buy anything over the phone from cold callers, but they still keep trying so are definitely a nuisance caller and sadly many people would have fallen for their tricks.


I am looking forward with immense interest to the revealing of who makes this group ” some people find telemarketing useful”. this is going to be a doozy.

On amore serious note I am astonished that Which? seems to have been seduced into an accomplice role in the continuation of direct marketing. I doubt that a single subscriber to Which? who has signed for action on the problem is at all interested in reform. Every posting I have seen and everyone I have ever spoken to wants it banned.

So how come Which? gets involved in:
” The Nuisance Calls and Texts Task Force on Consent and Lead Generation was convened by Which? at the request of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), following the publication of the DCMS Nuisance Calls Action Plan in March 2014.
…………………….. The Task Force has focused its attention on how organisations use consumer
consent to carry out direct marketing activity and to buy and sell potential
customer leads. We strongly believe that consumers should not be confused
or misled by requests for their consent, and businesses should make sure that
they only purchase personal data which has been legitimately obtained.

Our recommendations are designed to help reduce the incidence of unwanted
calls and texts received by consumers by improving the ways in which marketing
organisations, regulators and government treat consumer consent to receive
direct marketing by telephone and text. ”

Which? seems to have not aligned itself with the general public in this matter and perhaps it could explain why. The revelation that charities are also involved in trading data for direct marketing makes it doubly painful.


There’s always a risk when pressure groups [like Which?] cosy up to government. They can get swept into the flow because the alternative is to be ignored completely. They end up reciting the same mantras and using the same smoothed-out language so that their cutting edge gets severely blunted. Unfortunately in the conventional orthodoxy that is our form of representative democracy it is the only way to make any progress at all. I am not happy about it but those of us who care about these things just have to keep trying, as you so often do Diesel, to stiffen the resolve of the organisations of which we are nominally members or at least paid-up supporters.


I am also looking forward with great interest who these people are who find telemarketing useful.

Let’s face it, the whole point of telemarketing is to get you to part with your hard earned cash and succumbing to pressure sales or making quick decisions that cost you money is rarely going to be in your favour.

I think we should also be asking “Where Is The Proof?”

wev says:
10 June 2015

Vanessa, you are forgetting about the suicide of Olive Cooke a few weeks ago. She received so many nuisance calls, she felt the only to end it was to kill herself.

Jessica Marilyn’s story of nuisance mail is at thinkjessica.com. If she had received nuisance calls instead of mail, she would have been financially worse off than Olive. The mail contributed to her poor health, illness and death.

Your Bill won’t help people like them.


Hi guys, thanks for all the comments. You’re right that most unsolicited calls are a nuisance and in many cases they can cause distress. And I know how passionality you all feel about this – this is why we’ve been working so hard to push this up the agenda of the Government and regulators. We’ve convinced the Government to change the law to make it easier for big fines to hit cold calling companies. And​ now​ we want them to go further so that senior people in those companies are held to account.

​We agree that there is a big problem with the opt in/out process. Sometimes people have given their permission to be called without even realising and then it gets sold on to third parties and so on. That’s why we want the regulators to implement their recommendations on making it easier for people to remove themselves from these list, and from whereever it’s been passed on to. And people shouldn’t be ‘fooled’ into opting in via vague wording in the first place.

However, we don’t think a ban on marketing calls would ​be fair to responsible businesses. ​For example​, we’re not against marketing call​s from your existing mobile phone provider about how ​to ​move to a better deal and save money. ​

We’ve achieved a lot so far together and we’re going to keep working to sort out nuisance calls. ​While it’s taking time, ​we’ve made a lot of ​progress since ​we started campaign​ing​ together​ on this and we’re confident we can call time on nuisance calls and texts​.


Vanessa, I don’t think I’d class a call from an existing provider, such as your mobile phone supplier, as an unsolicited marketing call. But I wouldn’t want them to pass my details on to anyone else – even some other company within their organisation.

What I’d object to, and support banning, are all calls from people I don’t know and have never dealt with. I hope Which? will pursue a total ban on these and press for an opt-in as the default.

Have you thoughts on how overseas marketing calls might be dealt with, and what views are there on stopping all numbers being withheld? I’d be interested to know under what circumstances they are justified, including of course private calls. I’m sure there will be valid reasons (but don’t see why doctors or hospital as quoted above should withhold numbers, for example).


Since the facility for making cold calls is the use of computer-driven automated calling systems there must be a way in which it could be a legal requirement to have a licence from Ofcom to operate such a system and for manufacturers/suppliers of such systems to have to verify that such a licence exists before installing the system. This could be Europe-wide if there was cooperation within the EU. I realise it would not tackle incoming calls from abroad but there might be another way of cutting off their income stream through the banks and credit card companies.


Hi Malcolm, we want all marketing calls to have a valid caller line id and Government are supposed to be looking at changing the law on this. Whilst the issue of tackling calls from overseas is difficult, it should mean that if it was a UK company calling you, they would have to make sure their call centers provided a valid number.

I understand it might be simpler if everyone just had to show their number, but as others have mentioned there are situations when it wouldn’t be right. It could be that a person needs to receive a call from the doctors, police or another other confidential service that they wouldn’t want other people to know about. There could be some important reasons behind that, meaning that if there was a number, someone else could either ring it back or go online to check who the call is from.

But i can’t think of any good reasons why a marketing call needs to be private, so they definitely should be showing a valid number. Not only does it help you to know who is calling, and means you can report them.


I think Malcolm has made a very pertinent point. A call from a company with whom one is in a contractual relationship is not in the same league as the objectionable, deceitful, exploitative and repetitive calls we all want banned. It might be a cold call in the sense that it is unsolicited and interruptive, so therefore a nuisance, but it is not an invasive call and there are ways of getting out of such contractual relationships [and firms that want our custom won’t do it again after being reprimanded]. In any case such calls are invariably person-to-person and they treat one respectfully as an existing customer in my experience.


I think the only calls I have had from my mobile phone company is when I have had a problem (not a nuisance) or a previous company trying to get me back (definitely a nuisance). They have certainly never suggested a cheaper tariff presumably as it is not in their interest to do so.

But I do agree calls from a company you are in a contract with and as long as calls are concerning that contract should not be classed as nuisance calls.


Vanessa, why does Which? think it is ok for companies to sell your personal information in the first place? Why don’t data protection and privacy laws prevent them from doing this?


alfa – I asked the same question on one of the on-line charity industry sites I frequent. Either Third Sector or Civil Society.

Someone in the fund raising sector was saying how scupulous she was in buying lists that the people had agreed for their information to be passed on. It is rather touching that people who obtain the lists are assumed to be totally honest despite being paid poorly or purely on the results they provide.

“We don’t think outright ban is the right solution to the problem of nuisance calls and texts because some people find telemarketing useful, and not all telemarketing calls are a nuisance or unwanted.”
Vaness Furey

Who are the some?


dieseltaylor, I think we are all waiting with bated breath for who the some are.

We go to great lengths and are encouraged to do so by various organisations, to protect ourselves, our identities, our finances, our property, etc. We use a multitude of different format passwords, internet security, jump through hoops to get at your online accounts, don’t put your name and address out with the rubbish, etc. We try to educate our elderly relatives to do the same.

So I find it quite ludicrous that companies can just sell your personal information and companies such as charities have no qualms in justifying their use of it. And I also don’t understand how Which? can support the selling of our data either.


Vanessa, you said “We don’t think outright ban is the right solution to the problem of nuisance calls and texts because some people find telemarketing useful, and not all telemarketing calls are a nuisance or unwanted”.

No they don’t and yes they are.

The percentage of people who find telemarketing useful is miniscule and telemarketing calls are found by the vast majority of consumers very much an unwanted nuisance.
If you honestly believe what you’ve written you either don’t have your finger on the pulse or you’ve been got at.

For that tiny percentage that welcomes telesales calls let them “opt in”, but make the default “opt out” then all those people you talk of who like these calls will be happy, and the rest of us, the vast majority of us, who don’t will be happy too.

Despite being registered with TPS I got six today, two of them silent. 5 or 6 is about the weekday average, but the record is 10. I’ve very much had enough of it as is clear to those calling me by the language I’ve been reduced to using.
And you say ” A ban would adversely affect those companies that act legally and responsibly when they contact consumers”?
A comment that won’t get much sympathy from me. Perhaps you might define just what is legal and responsible, and advise how these callers establish just what is a “responsible” cold call?

Finally an example of one of the most annoying.
I kept getting calls on my mobile from a casino type outfit, lots of them texts too. I actually read through one of the texts and found I could be removed from their “pester list” by texting a number and just saying “NO”. I did this only to later find out that text cost me 30p. It was classed as outside my monthly text allowance.
And worse of all the texts didn’t stop. I’m still livid about it.

How can anyone defend any cold caller?


Hi alfa, we agree, companies should not be selling on your data if they don’t have permission to do so and ICO should be tackling any companies who are. Sadly the problem is that a lot of the time they do have consent because of all the different variations of those tick boxes. Each time you have to work out if it’s ‘Opt-in’ or ‘Opt-out’, a double negative or even if the box should be ticked or unticked.

That’s why we want the regulator to develop a standardised set of wording for that question, and ensure that consent is always a separate question. Consent shouldn’t be a precondition for you entering into a competition or contract.

The other thing the taskforce recommended is that the regulator needs to look at solutions to make it easier for people to revoke consent if they do accidentally opt-in, and that companies should be passing this information back up the data chain when consumers do. That would mean you should only have to revoke consent once, not each occasion it’s been sold on.


Vanessa, perhaps we could have a poll:

How do you consent to you personal data being sold:

1. Without your permission
2. With your permission
3. Never


Hi alfa, thanks for this idea i’ll definitely mention this to Patrick. On the first one, if you haven’t given permission for your data to be sold then companies shouldn’t be selling it on. They can only pass it on if they have the consent of the individual.

But this is where it comes down to the wording of the statement. If it specifies particular companies they wish to share it with, then it can only go to those ones. However, if it just says ‘I consent for this to be shared with third parties’ then that where it can be sold on more widely.

These can be a real pain for people and it’s why the task force recommended that companies should view third party consent with a six month time limit. I.e they would have to make first contact with that individual within 6 months of the person giving consent.

wev says:
15 June 2015

Vanessa, your words earlier are almost disgraceful.

No responsible business would put its own customers on a call centre list, let alone strangers. And they wouldn’t buy a phone number list and call a phone number knowing those numbers had been obtained with vague wording to fool people. If they want to give a better deal, they’re capable of doing it for everyone without ringing them. And if people want to move to a better deal, they’ll find out for themselves when they’re ready.

Fines are a cost of doing business. They’re passed on to consumers.

If you fine company directors, they’ll increase their salary and pass the cost to consumers, who are probably getting a bad deal anyway.

Your bill isn’t going to change anything.


I am very disappointed that Which? has not been fighting for a total ban on ALL unsolicited calls, including market research calls, unless we opt-in to receive them. Quite frankly these Conversations about nuisance calls are becoming as irritating as the calls themselves. 🙁

If Which? is going to put an end to these calls then more radical action is needed. Which? could get publicity for its campaign on TV.


Wavechange, Which has already got publicity for its campaign on television. It was covered very well this morning on BBC Breakfast for example.


Can we have a link to the actual report Richard. I read it when it was published and wanted to refresh my memory as to the composition of the committee you chaired.

I know the Fair Telecoms group thought the recommendations did not go far enough.:

“We propose a complete ban on cold calling in the following areas:

Claims Management – PPI, Personal Injury and Accidents, Medical Negligence etc.
Energy – Provision, “Switching” and the “Green Deal”, which covers home improvements.
Financial Services – Debt Management, Payday loans, Pensions etc.”

I have to say that seems to jibe more with the populations wishes.


Thanks very much NFH. It’s a pity it’s not available on iPlayer.

Incidentally, I agree that speaking to cold callers can help to avoid future calls, and I simply tell them that I have never bought from any company that uses cold calls or doorstop sales. That obviously does not help with the recorded messages, which seem to be taking the place of callers.


There’s a clip of our story on the BBC website here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-33059305, where you can also hear about the effect nuisance calls have had on one of our supporters


Hello, there’s a copy of the full task force report here http://www.which.co.uk/documents/pdf/nuisance-calls-task-force-report-388316.pdf or if it’s just the recommendations you are after they are listed here http://www.which.co.uk/documents/pdf/nuisance-calls-task-force-recommendations-388317.pdf


Thanks for posting the video, Vanessa. It highlights the fact that nuisance calls is a more serious issue than causing irritation to people like me. It’s the less fortunate that we need to think of.


Can Which? give examples of companies they think should be permitted to continue with cold-calling if they follow an ethical code?


Consumers should not have to resort to the expense of buying nuisance call blockers. I fortunately don’t receive too many nuisance calls but when I do I can normally deal with them stating “I don’t do deals over the ‘phone.”

I recently had a call from a guy with an African accent purporting to be from BT Open Reach saying he wanted to discuss my internet connection. I promptly told him there was nothing wrong with my internet connection and the line went dead. On another occasion a guy with a northern accent from BT tried to sell me a new broadband package over the phone but when I told him I don’t do deals on the phone and would he kindly send me an email or snail mail through the post
he told me that it was cheaper to arrange it over the phone. “Why is it cheaper over the phone” I asked. “I don’t really know” was his reply! No deal was forthcoming!

Ofcom should make it mandatory that telephone companies issue guidelines on their bills and internet connections warning consumers and informing them of the appropriate questions they need to ask cold callers, such as asking them for a call back number and to make sure you call them back from another phone in case the caller has not hung up. Better not to engage in any sort of conversation really. They are trained to deal with and are quite oblivious to angry responses from recipients.


A call blocker is no help if you want to receive calls from some withheld numbers. Doctors and hospitals are examples of users of these numbers. You might also miss a call about something you have ordered.

Having experimented with different approaches, my view is that it does help to engage with callers, usually saying that I never buy from unsolicited callers.

Ian says:
9 June 2015

Blockers based on trueCall technology do not suffer that problem. Callers are challenged to state their name or hang up. This allows legitimate callers but who have withheld their number to still get through.


Some people are not very happy with these devices.

I suggest that we tackle the problem rather than trying to find ways of making it more bearable.


Nobody should have to resort to registering with TPS or purchasing a call blocker.

It is completely immoral that BT sells these things and profits from people’s misery when they have the power and technology to tackle the problem of nuisance callers. It is also disgusting that they charge for caller display.

Ian says:
9 June 2015

An effective fix does not lie in the application of technology. It is clearly inappropriate to use the telephone for some types of marketing and those business sectors should be completely banned from doing so.


The call blocker I use makes people say their name regardless of whether their number is withheld or not. So it’s only automated diallers that are totally stuffed as they cant connect the call.

Maggie says:
9 June 2015

I find these calls really annoying and a nuisance, like lots of people, and I’m pleased to see that Which has set up what looks like a simple reporting mechanism – I’ve bookmarked it and shall have no hesitation in using it in future.

The only time I found any “usefulness” in any of these calls was when my husband was in his last weeks in a hospice. As has been said by others, I flew to the phone whenever it rang. If it turned out to be one of these calls, it received a volley of Anglo-Saxon which considerably relieved my feelings and for a few moments made me feel better!! (I should add that I very seldom “use language” as my mother used to say.)


” The Task Force has focused its attention on how organisations use consumer
consent to carry out direct marketing activity and to buy and sell potential
customer leads. We strongly believe that consumers should not be confused
or misled by requests for their consent, and businesses should make sure that
they only purchase personal data which has been legitimately obtained”

SO an implicit assumption that direct marketing is OK. This view does not seem to be shared by many.

It also condones the sale/purchase of personal data – which is perhaps where we start to look at the charity sector.


It’s interesting how in the weasel wording of the establishment, our personal identities and private information have become “potential customer leads”. It makes it sound so innocent doesn’t it?


The extent to which this country is run to support business rather than citizens is disgraceful. No company should have been allowed to make unsolicited phone calls, and the same applies to charities.

Although I very much appreciate the efforts of Which? to deal with nuisance calls, I am disappointed that they have not campaigned for a ban on cold calling unless consent has been given, i.e. a person has opted in.


Unfortunately, opting in would be wide open to abuse.

Companies would apologise that your number is on their list of permitable calls and carry on regardless.

Tellling them you are ex-directory or registered with TPS makes no difference and neither would opting-in.


I reported in a related Conversation about a recent charity cold-call. I think these are even more insidious than straight commercial ones because they are playing on people’s sympathies and their suggestibility; people don’t like to appear uncharitable. Elderly people are more likely to be vulnerable to such approaches and succumb more easily to the persuasive voice at the end of the phone line, especially if they don’t have much human contact for lengthy periods. One should’t generalise, though: many older people are quite capable of giving the caller more than they bargained for.

Only a total ban will do with positive opt-in required to enable access. Negative opt-in, deemed or implied consent, and default consent [i.e. uncheck a contrary box, failure to read the T&C’s, providing a telephone number in the address panel, and such like] should all be outlawed.


Have a look at the poll on this earlier Conversation about nuisance calls: https://conversation.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/nuisance-calls-spam-texts-campaign-ico-ofcom-tps-ed-vaizey/

Seems fairly conclusive.


Which ? Poll on Conversations

Are you fed up with nuisance calls and texts?

Yes (100%, 30,130 Votes)

No (0%, 91 Votes)

Total Voters: 30,221


Citizens Advice has called for a ban as reported in January 2015 in the Mirror Online:

” The advisory service is calling for financial services firms like claims management companies and debt resolution services to be banned from cold-calling to protect people from unscrupulous operators.

Research last year found that the most common unexpected sales calls, texts and emails made to households in Britain were related to personal injury and accident claims, energy suppliers and double glazing firms.

Companies selling debt relief services, offers for extended warranties on products and firms selling ways to unlock pensions were other regular offenders, as reported to Citizens Advice.
It found that 67% of British adults, equivalent to more than 30 million people, had received an unwanted telephone call, text, email or letter about claiming for mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance.

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: “It is time companies hang up marketing plans that bombard people with unwanted phone calls, text messages and automated voicemails.”


Just look what could be happening with social media. This is occurring now in the US. I have a nasty feeling that it may be occurring in the UK and we simply do not have the organisation to fight this creeping playing around with our data/rights.

In the US they are more ballsy and the quote shows what is happening and the response for people who fight. Read particularly the final sentence:

“The fine print also says PayPal can pass along the same rights to its affiliates. Here’s the language, in black and white, from the company’s website:

You consent to receive autodialed or prerecorded calls and text messages from PayPal at any telephone number that you have provided us or that we have otherwise obtained . . . . (PayPal) may share your phone numbers with our Affiliates or with our service providers, such as billing or collections companies, who we have contracted with to assist us in pursuing our rights.

Given that both the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (which created the Do Not Call list) and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ban most robocalling and texting, this seemed in direct opposition to consumer protections granted Americans by Congress. And the FCC has made clear that the “existing business relationship” exception that applies to the Do Not Call list doesn’t give companies the right to robocall consumers. They must acquire written or oral consent. Could a change in terms of service constitute such consent?

So I contacted the National Consumer Law Center to ask about it, and lawyer Margot Saunders reminded me that consumers can consent to all sorts of things — including consenting to getting robocalls from debt collectors and advertisers. Critically, however, this consent is not a waiver or rights, she said, and it can be withdrawn at any time.

At least, that’s her opinion. But it’s not what PayPal has told at least one customer. When PayPal consumer Robert Pascarella questioned PayPal about the terms of service on the company’s Facebook page recently, he requested an opt-out for the provision and was shot down.
“Regrettably, there isn’t an opt out option to certain items within our User Agreement,” PayPal responded.

When he objected, PayPal posted directions for closing his account.”

From bobsullivan.net June 4th 2015


I am very grateful for the huge amount of effort put in by Richard Lloyd during his time at Which?

It would be a great help if he could explain the strategy of Which? regarding nuisance calls and texts, which some of us believe is inadequate to address the problem.


How long has Which been “campaigning” against nuisance calls?

For all the noise and social media attention I’m not seeing much in the way of progress.

And for those who love cold calls, most people are on inclusive packages these days let them ring round companies asking what they can offer. Rather than have everyone pestered.

And I’d also like to see phone companies being criminally liable for assisting phone scammers by connecting their calls in the same way as the person knocking on your door during a distraction burglary.


Looking back over the Which? tag “cold callers”, it looks like 5 years ago the nuisance callers were on your doorstep, then when the mockers were put on that, they resorted to foreign call centres, now they are moving on to recorded messages.

I wonder what will be next !!!

And I am very happy to do the calling when I want something like insurance or even a PPI refund if I was entitled to one. I definitely don’t want to be pestered by them.


@which, is there something wrong with your system It’s taken 4 days for alfa’s message to arrive in my inbox, this has been going on since you had a system issue months ago. Are you aware of the problem and what’s being done to resolve it?


FYI The mails are leaving which ok, but getting held up at google.

“neither permitted nor denied by best guess record for domain of webadmin”

Looks like an IP address has changed but not been update at googlemail and is causing the mails a 3 day delay while their processed.

Emails with client-ip=; in worked on,
With client-ip=; have a problem at google.

hope that helps.


william, I have had no email updates at all since the server was changed even though I check the box..


Thanks William. We are aware of the error and are in the process of gutting and relaunching the notifications system with the new site. Sorry about it being broken at the moment 🙁


Hi Patrick, You do realise its been broken for months now ? And was the info I posted at all relevant to the problem ? And FYI I’ve not had notification of your response, I was just curious to see if there had been one.


Hi William, yes I’m aware it’s been broken for a long time now. I can only apologise. Thanks for sharing that info, I’ve shared it with our developers.

All our resources have moved to the new site which will be using a new email system altogether. I’ve published a Convo for you to talk to us about site problems and improvements, if you’d like to talk to me more about this and other things: https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/convo-redevelopment-survey-community-website/


So much for increased legislation. The calls keep coming thick and fast. “They” must know how antisocial this is and they don’t give a damn because there’s money in it somewhere. Cut that source and the calls will stop.


Even though I have subscribed to the TPS system in the UK I still get nuisance calls. I used to ask if the caller if they have heard of the TPS but this didn’t always get rid of them. The following technique, though, has had 100% success over a number of months.

After the caller has given their introduction I say “OK, before you go any further and before I can respond I need to know your full name, the name of the company you work for, its full postal address and the name of its managing director.” I had one reaction “You’re joking” to which I responded “No, not at all” and then, like all of the other callers, they ring off.

Hectare says:
12 June 2015

I have find the TPS to be useless. Even supplying all the details they need (tel. number, name lf company etc on at least 6 instances ovetr the past 3 months, they maintain they have insufficient information to track and contact the culprit…so what exactly are they for?

Latest irritation that the Which campaign can’t solve (unfortunately) are calls from overseas numbers. They are now starting to call after midnight or very early in the morning, so VERY annoying.

Does anyone know if other countries apart from the UK suffer these plagues of unwanted scamming scummers? e.g. do the Germans and Finns get the ‘Windows Computer’ or the ‘Energy Survey’ calls?


@hectare, I have friends in Canada and the States and they both get the Microsoft scam calls. I don’t know for sure but I guess the reason they tend to dry up is cos they’ve moved on to another part of the world, and it seems to take roughly 3-4 months to get back to calling me again.

Rosemary Kelly says:
13 June 2015

We receive many calls throughout the day, and our preference service does not exclude these. We now do not pick up the phone for a number we do not recognise, if it is unavailable or with-held. If we do not answer the call can we still put these calls down on a nuisance call list? We have reported answered calls in the past, but the volume on our land line and mobiles has increased. We appreciate we should answer the phone but this is a major form of communication that is a life line for many people and we would like to know the way forward.

Rosemary Kelly says:
13 June 2015

We experience a large number of nuisane calls most days, sometimes before 7.00 am and after 11.00 pm. We do not pick up the calls if we do not recognise the number, it is unavailable or with-held. Our telephone preference service does not cover many of these calls although supposed to do precisely that. Can we register all the unnecessary phone numbers without answering the calls> It is a great nuisance and causes major inconvenience when expecting calls from official with-held numbers.


“Press five to speak to a representative.” Who’s paying the representative and what with? If I am paying by pressing five, how do they get their filthy hands on my phone money?


Their money comes from selling on your number as having someone on the end of the phone that others can then pester.


I see several are against call blockers= Before -12/15 calls a day to my landline phone company wouldnt block international (sly) re-rooted calls -and various other new technology ways of causing you trouble . Bought call blocker (covers Everything !! ) 8 months ago result NO mind blowing making you angry Calls . Do those that are against them seemingly for maybe political reasons tell me why so many old folk have visited doctors for valium etc ? Why its all right to “terrorise ” (not MY words ) but the words of those old people . Why are some so brainwashed by big business that any attempt to show it in a bad light is suppressed ?? putting the poor and vulnerable in terror of their lives where is the humanity -heart etc ?

Jim Brennan says:
3 July 2015

How on earcth has which involved itself with BT in this alleged campaign? BT claims it cannot stop nuisance calls originating from overseas – Which doesn’t even provide a route in its portal to report them and referrs vistims the the TPS, which is next to useless in the uk, and functions simply as an umbrella for the telephone marketing industry, and even then relies only on the voluntary co-operation of the industry. BT used to offer free caller display services to victims – now it would rather sell you an alleged blocker phone, which Which has never tested. You shouldn’t be backing this immensely rich and very badly managed company before you have even consumer tested the service you are helping to promote. Should you?


When are Which? going to answer the questions:

Why is it legal to sell our personal data?

Who are the people who find telemarketing useful?

Who are the reputable companies that act legally and responsibly?

Why should charities and telemarketing companies be allowed to continue to harass us?

As Peter Vicary Smith comes from a charities background and other board members have marketing backgrounds, is there a conflict of interest here?


Hi Alfa

Hope you are well. We don’t believe it’s legal for companies to sell on your data if the company doesn’t have your permission to. All companies, whether they’re a charity or a business, have to follow the rules on how they use your personal data, as well as how they contact you.

The problem we’ve found is that people often give their consent without realising, either because it’s tied into taking another action, or because the wording is just confusing – so people don’t understand whether they need to tick, untick or leave blank. This is why the task force has recommended that the regulator creates a standardised set of statements, so that people can understand what they are agreeing to. We also think that a person’s consent needs to be obtained separately from anything else i.e. you should be able to enter a competition without having to give your consent to be contacted about other things.

There are businesses and charities who act responsibly, those that have got consent from the individual to be contacted, whether it’s first person or third party. They will have screened those people against the TPS and they will ensure that if you say you no longer wish to be contacted that you are taken off their database.

We want more companies to make sure that they are following best practice and implementing the task force recommendations. This includes making sure they show a valid number so that you can know who is calling you and making sure that there is senior level accountability for how the company uses your data. It’s why we are working directly with businesses and charities to get them to sign up to our campaign and agree to do this.


Yet again the questions that I and others have asked remain unanswered.

No-one should ever have to worry whether they have given permission or not for their personal data to be sold, or for how long, or to who.


There is a case reported recently in Third Sector regarding a cancer charity employing a fund raising firm utilising a list sourced from an Indian company. The Indian company’s proof of agreement to telephone calls apparently relied on a non-existent person responding from that address and telephone number.

One might if cynical that seeling lists is not an honest business – and that nobody in the loop is interested in checking it in detail or as a practice.

Which? I think is at a cross-roads. Is it representing its subscribers or is it positioning itself as a quasi-governmental body filtering views and feeding the main stream media with filler stories.

Surveying its entire 800,000 plus membership on nuisance calls ban could be done when sending out this years ballot forms. I am sure with on-line voting available or postage paid enevelopes you will probably get a very much higher response than surveys on Conversations AND it will be from the subscribers who empower/pay for the charity.


Third Sector does open your eyes when it comes to charities.

I used to naively think charities were organisations run by volunteers to help those in need when in reality they are big businesses. I don’t think I even realised Which? was a charity for a long time.

Some time ago, I looked up the website on our local clothes recycling bank, watched the video of the journey of those clothes and was frankly appalled that three levels of people were making money from them before being sold to the less fortunate on African market stalls.

I think you are right at Which? being at a cross-roads. It should be representing its subscribers but evidence right here on this convo suggests otherwise. It would also be a good idea to survey the entire membership of Which? as you suggested. My earlier poll suggestion on consenting to selling personal data fell on deaf ears and that could also be asked.


Reading the report I realise I erred and an address is not mentioned.

Interestingly the FRSB does not appear to consider that falsification can take place. Perhaps my training makes me unduly suspicious.!



“We’re campaigning to call time on nuisance calls and texts.”
supported by 218,000 sign-ups.

If I call time I expect things to stop and I guess most people do. So the follow-on in the sign-up:

” We’re calling on the Government to make senior executives accountable by law for their company’s nuisance calls, and require businesses to show their number when they call. We also want the regulator to give people more power by putting them in control of how their personal data is used.”

Does that in any way suggest that Which? is going to hold meetings with interested parties or would people be under the impression that nuisance calls are going to be punished?

tom gray says:
28 July 2015

Has anyone else experienced live nuisance calls masquerading as auto calls? This seems to be a new phenomenon, always coming from a number 08446480173. In my case, it is a voice with a local accent and I discovered the true nature of the call accidentally when I answered back in aggressive terms and found that the caller broke off or quickly jumped to the end of the script. On one of the occasions I was phoned 5 mins later by someone (local voice also) who claimed that I had pressed a button on my phone which triggered a response with more information – (not the case). I can’t work out what the point of this tactic is. I had another call today, but couldn’t put the caller off this time, who continued doggedly to the end of the script. All these have been reported to ICO


Hi Tom

that’s an odd one – have others had the same experience? Great to hear that you’ve reported all these calls.